31 Lessons I Learned Before Turning 31
31 Lessons I Learned Before Turning 31

31 Lessons I Learned Before Turning 31

I survived 31 laps around the sun. There were a few times I thought I wouldn’t make it to this day. Once was after the 9/11 attack in the U.S., and I was convinced that they were coming to Malaysia next. But lo and behold, that didn’t happen, at least not on the scale that I feared.

Instead, I lived to turn 31. As I do (turn 31, that is), I shall make my thoughts pay rent.

I’ve grown. And now, I say stuff I wouldn’t have said a few years ago. Here are 31 of them.

  1. Safe spaces might not always feel like a safe space, even progressive ones. And that’s okay.
  2. Changing your mind is okay too, even if it happens every day. In fact, don’t trust people who still believe the same exact things they did 10 years ago.
  3. No need to break your back trying to be “Chinese enough”. Especially no need to impress people who think you are not “Chinese enough”. If you’re Chinese enough, then you’re Chinese enough. Otherwise, fuck it.
  4. Appearing “strong” is not something to be proud of. The ability to be vulnerable is the real shit.
  5. Some people have good intentions, but they just won’t get it. It’s okay to drop these people.
  6. There is no such thing as the right or wrong choice. The options are usually good or better and sucky or suckier
  7. Masturbating to Mason Temple tap dancing is fine.
  8. If you find yourself in the middle of unwanted attention (which would happen more and more often as you age, not because the frequency of attention increases but because attention becomes increasingly unwelcome), follow this motto: keep it interesting. You’re interesting, and that’s why people are interested. This leads back to the ultimate motto: would this add value to your autobiography?
  9. Life is all about narratives. There are no good guys and bad guys. Everybody believes themselves to be the hero in their story.
  10. In the same way, nothing is ever all good, or all bad. Everything is some part good, and some part bad. 
  11. Sometimes, it’s better to just let it go. Other times, you should bite back. And if you decide to bite, bite hard. Go for the jugular.
  12. People say relationships are always hard work. I disagree. Sure, you require some work. But if it feels like just work, well, maybe it’s time to reconsider.
  13. Marriage is overrated, but cohabiting isn’t. Cohabiting is the best damn thing ever. Focus on the Family is wrong. Dr James Dobson is wrong.
  14. You don’t need an omnipotent, omnipresent, and omniscient deity looking out for you. In fact, not believing in an omnipotent, omnipresent, and omniscient deity will force you to do the work you need to do. No superhero is going to swoop down and save you. No higher power created concrete rules on right and wrong. Ethics and morals are for you and society to negotiate.
  15. Furthermore, escaping this lazy explanation (deity) will propel you to be truly curious about the world.
  16. But to reach that stage, you will have to deconstruct. Warning: deconstruction is violently painful. A key to getting through the pain is to not take it seriously. Don’t take any idea seriously. Consider every idea seriously, but don’t take any idea seriously.
  17. People will tell you that anger is bad. On the contrary, being angry is healthier than trying to bottle it up. Anger must come before indifference. Get angry at injustice. Get angry at the condescending people. Get angry at those who feel entitled to your life.
  18. You don’t need the cockpit to survive financially. You are versatile. Right now, you do need a laptop, but ultimately, aim to survive without a cockpit or a laptop. Evolve, always.
  19. Flying is great, but don’t make it your entire personality.
  20. There is nothing wrong with spending more than RM20 on a meal. Yes, it does end up in a toilet bowl afterwards, but it’s still worth it. Food is a pleasure; do not rob yourself of that pleasure.
  21. There are no mistakes. There are only lessons. Sounds corny but it’s true.
  22. Don’t ever, ever, ever trivialise other people’s problems.
  23. Try everything. Learn as much as possible. Listen to everybody.
  24. Hard work doesn’t always pay. The world doesn’t care about how hard you’ve worked.
  25. But work hard anyway.
  26. Having said that, rest is important. If you’re tired, rest.
  27. If something sucks, it’s time to quit.
  28. Systemic oppression is real.
  29. Always, always, always side with the oppressed. Always.
  30. Learn about financial markets. They are the manifestation of the human psyche.
  31. Dead people stay dead. Maybe the resurrection of the dead will happen. Nobody knows. Some people pretend to know, but they actually have no way of knowing for sure. Anyway, just in case, get buried with your feet facing east (metaphorically. It is more environmentally friendly to get cremated).

Well, happy birthday, Chow Ping.

Don’t die, I guess.

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